The news of the brutal murder of Mr. Shahbaz bhatti, 42, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, has shocked the religious minorities of Pakistan, particularly the Christians.
|Protesters holding banners
(Photo by Ahsan Sadaqat, ANS)
Upon hearing the shocking news, people spontaneously began taking to the streets in mourning for the man who had fought so strongly for their rights and protesting against this act of terrorism that took place in broad daylight in Islamabad, the capital city of the country.
According to media reports, Mr. Bhatti was murdered on Wednesday by four unidentified men as he was on his way to attend the cabinet meeting.
Mr. Bhatti had been facing sever threats to his life following the death of Punjab governor Salman Taseer who was assassinated for speaking out against the death sentence given to Asia Bibi, the mother of five who was convicted under Pakistan Penal Code Section 295 C.
Mr. Bhatti, a committed Christian, had also been speaking out and appealing at different forums to stop the misuse of this controversial law.
|Women chanting slogans
(Photo by Ahsan Sadaqat, ANS)
Countrywide mourning and protest rallies are taken out. Political parties, civil society and Christian community are organizing the demonstrations. The protest rallies demand immediate arrest of the culprits and end terrorism, extremism from the country.
The Christian Community and various organizations organized a protest rally under tight security in Toba Tek Singh, a city in Punjab province.
Hundreds of men, women and children wearing black bands, and holding placards and banners, demanded that the government stop the killings of Christian leaders. The rally started from Mubarkabad, Shorkot Road, and reached the clock tower in the main square of the city were various local Christian leaders spoke out.
Pastor Robin Gulshan said, “Religious minorities, especially Christians, feel insecure in Pakistan. The murder of Mr. Bhatti in the capital city is a question mark for a common person, because if their leader or rulers cannot be protected, what will happen to the common man or woman.”
Rasheed Jalal, District President of Pakistan Muslim League said, “Mr. Bhatti was a symbol of unity in Pakistan, not only for religious minorities, but for the whole country. He always worked for a prosperous and peaceful Pakistan.
“All through his life he worked for peace and inter-faith harmony. He institutionalized interfaith and conflict resolution work in the country and he worked day and night to bring Muslims and minorities closer to each other.”
He then urged protestors to make a commitment to “realize the vision of Mr. Bhatti.”
Ms. Rafia Salomi, Deputy Director Society for Human Development said, “The anti-state elements have silenced another voice of the weaker groups of our society, as well as interfaith harmony and peace. Today, is a challenge for the marginalized groups to break their silence and get united to confront terrorism with love, peace, compassion, tolerance and hope.”
|Ashfaq Fateh, Special correspondent to ANS in Pakistan, addressing the protesters|
Ashfaq Fateh, special correspondent in Pakistan for ANS said, “The murder of Shahbaz bhatti is a national loss. Mr. Bhatti was a great defender of Pakistan abroad. He fought the case of Pakistan at various international forums and gained aid to provide relief to our flood victims.”
Local Muslim clerics shared the sorrows with Christian protesters over the murder of Mr. Bhatti.
Mufti Abdul Mueed Asad, the Divisional Vice Chairman of the Interfaith Council, condemned the murder of Mr. Bhatti. He said, “Islam gives a message of peace and tolerance. It gives the message to respect every human being.”
Syed Murad Ali Shah, President the Shiat Sect, Toba Tek Singh, urged Christians and Muslims to join together to “fight against terrorism for a peaceful Pakistan.”
Note: This story is based on information gathered by Ashfaq Fateh, our ANS special correspondent in Pakistan.